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Ultimate Checklist for Fall of Senior Year in High School

🍂 How Should I Prepare for College Applications in Senior Year?

During the fall, you'll want to make sure you manage your time well. You will be busy with college applications, extracurriculars, and APs. Remember to take time for self-care and spending time with family and friends during this lovely fall season too.

🌐 Connect with Your Support Network

👩‍🏫 Ask for letters of recommendation (varies per school and student)

For some schools, you are required to ask for letters of recommendation during junior spring. But for others, it happens during the beginning of the school year. Ask your teachers for a letter at least one month before your first college's deadline. Go up to them in person (email if not possible) and ask if they can write a strong letter of recommendation for you. It is best to go alone and when your teacher is free! This way, your teacher can be the most honest with you. If they say no, it's not a reflection of you. It's often because either the teacher is too busy or is unable to write a strong letter. When a teacher says no, it's actually better because you can find a teacher who can write a positive letter! Teachers don't get paid extra to do this, so remember to be polite all throughout. Send them any additional material they need, such as "brag sheets" and resumes.

It's advised to pick a teacher who can write about your growth and how you are as a person. This is preferred over a teacher who can write about your stellar grades and ability to listen.

When choosing teachers, make sure you list the requirements of each college when doing college research. The standard is two teachers, one from STEM and one from the humanities. Each college varies, from the number of letters they want to the subject the teacher teaches.

In addition, most colleges allow students to submit an optional "other" letter of recommendation. These include clergy, coaches, college access counselors, employers, club advisors, and others. Not all colleges recommend this optional letter, so do your research. Furthermore, each letter should provide a different perspective. You won't be able to read your recommenders' letters due to FERPA rights. Regardless, you should have an understanding of what type of letter each recommender will provide.

👥 Meet with your guidance counselor regarding college applications and scholarships, including letters of recommendation

Your guidance counselor often has a list of many scholarships, both local and national. By meeting with your counselor, you can retrieve this list early and prepare for writing these essays. Pro-tip: you don't have to write new essays for each scholarship and college! Often, these prompts intersect and you can use the same essay and/or revise and personalize.

Counselors are required to write a school report and a recommendation letter for you. Make sure to get in touch with your counselor and invite them to your Common/Coalition Application portal.

📝 Finalize Your List and Create an Essay Plan

🕜 Start finalizing your college list and consider which schools you want to apply to early

  • Early action, early decision, and single-choice/restrictive early actions are the three main application plans for early application. Through early applications, you get your decision earlier. In this case, the essays are also due earlier. Make sure to write the deadlines for each college you're applying to in your calendar!
  • Applying early is an important decision, as the quality of your essays improves over time. If you don't think your essays are ready and rushed, it might not be best to apply early.
  • For public universities, early action provides a benefit: a source of demonstrated interest. Since early decision is binding (you must attend if accepted), colleges see this as demonstrated interest. This gives a boost to the application. Still, early decision is often criticized for its lack of financial aid. Make sure you speak to your family before applying early decision.

Check out this page for some Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED) Tips.

📅 Categorize your essays and create an essay writing plan

Once you've figured which colleges to apply to, copy and paste all the essay prompts you have to answer. Most of the time, you can find categories that you can split each prompts into. Some examples include:

  • Why this college (normally in consideration of its offerings)
  • Why you... essay (why you fit this college)
  • Extracurricular essay
  • Identity essay
  • Community essay

✏️ The Essay Planner template

Here are the columns you could put on a table to plan your essays:

Under tags, you could put something like "Supplemental Essays"

There are some other types, but by splitting them up, you can manage your time more effectively. You will do brainstorming for only a few topics rather than for each one individually. You can also often search for tips for each type of essay online.

Once you've brainstormed for each category, decide how to personalize each essay. Here, choose which topics are best for you as an applicant!

Next to each essay prompt, you should also write its deadline. Then, you can figure out how you want to split the essays up. The early applications should be completed first, but remember that your essay writing gets better over time.

✍🏼 Refine your main essay and start writing supplemental essays

You should also revise and edit your essays! Once you finish, let the essay sit for a few days, then come back to it. You'll revisit it with a fresh perspective! Also, let trusted individuals edit and revise your essays. Reach out to mentors, guidance counselors, and English teachers. Family members are not recommended because you want a more objective viewpoint. The admissions officer doesn't know you personally. At the end of the day, it is up to you, and who you trust!

🤑 Complete Financial Aid Forms and Scholarship Applications

There are often deadlines for financial aid, so make sure you turn it in on time! Read through the Fiveable financial aid page to get a list of scholarships, understand how to start the scholarship search, apply for scholarships, and complete financial aid forms.

Guide Outline

Check out these other guides that you might need.
Name School Prompt Word Count Essay Type Tag Deadline Do Dates Revision Date Link